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Big cats including lions, tigers, and jaguars are under threat – thanks in part to human demand for cheap meat.
The United Nations General Assembly, turned the focus of this year’s UN World Wildlife Day (which is held annually on March 3) to the threats faced by big cats around the world.
The theme of the day was ‘Big cats: predators under threat’.
United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, said: “This year the spotlight falls on the world’s big cats [including cheetahs, pumas and snow leopards among others].
“These charismatic creatures are universally revered for their grace and power, yet they are increasingly in danger of extinction.
“We are the cause of their decline, so we can also be their salvation. The Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] include specific targets to end the poaching and illegal trafficking of protected species of wild fauna and flora.”
Philip Lymbery is the CEO of welfare charity Compassion in World Farming.
Lymbery agrees with Guterres that the issues faced by big cats are largely due to humans. Writing about ‘Big cats: predators under threat’, he said was ‘ashamed’ that humans have caused these problems.
He added: “Overall, their populations are declining at a disturbing rate due to loss of habitat and prey, conflicts with people, poaching and illegal trade.”
When it comes to habit loss, Lymbery puts it largely down to rainforests being razed down to plant soy.
Though many associate soy consumption with vegans, in fact the vast majority of the crop is used to feed livestock in the food chain.
Charity WWF says: “Soybean meal is the largest source of protein feed in the world, and is generally used in animal feed.
“Therefore, most of the world’s soybeans are consumed indirectly by humans through products like meat (chicken, pork and beef), dairy, eggs and farmed fish. People also directly consume soybeans in tofu, soy sauce, meat substitutes and other soy products.
“Soybean oil is primarily used as table oil. However, its use for biodiesel production is growing rapidly. Other non-food uses are increasing and include paint, ink, wax, and soy-based foam and plastic products.”
According to Lymbery: “I witnessed first-hand how the remorseless march of soya – fuel for factory farms – is gobbling up the rainforest, ravaging a once rich and varied landscape.
“There is precious little left for the wild animals whose habitats are being sacrificed.”
He added: “The bitter truth is that cheap meat in Britain, Europe and the rest of the world – whether it’s beef, pork or chicken – is likely to have been reared on soya from the deforested plains of South America.
“Eating more plants, less meat and milk, and avoiding the produce of factory farms will help cut out farm animal cruelty and save iconic wildlife too.”